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Spare Lingerie

By Margretta Sowah

Margretta was the Winner of the 2023 Women of Colour Mentorship program in partnership with Western Sydney-based literacy movement Sweatshop. She has worked on a short fiction piece, under the guidance of Sweatshop judges and mentors Winnie Dunn and Sarah Ayoub. The work was written in response to Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement as part of the All About Women festival. 

Margretta was born in Ghana but came to Australia when she was very young. Her family and spirituality are an important part of her story, which comes through in her fictional writings of belonging, love and loss. She is a freelance copywriter and content marketer. Outside of work, she loves nothing more than fashion, poetry and a glass of wine. Sometimes together.

Margretta Sowah Recipient

The ladies of Three Loves Us, an old terrace-house parlour in the backstreets of Sydney’s CBD, laugh loudly in the waiting room. It’s sparse: two couches, a single chair, an old coffee table and a TV monitor propped on the wall that shows the clients come in and out. This is how most of us escorts survive; security cameras and laughter and always on our toes. We are short, thick, thin, Black, Brown, White, adventurous, timid – all to ensure the choices for men are varied. We don’t offer the same services, meaning we make different money. It is only in the waiting room that we are the same… for the most part.

‘I wanted him to leave so badly, I mean how can you pay for six plus hours and expect me to work the whole time?’ Tati, a pixie-like red-head, moans. She usually works the rooms nearest to me. She’s light-skinned but probably something akin to Indian. I guess by the sharp shape of her nose but can’t be sure. We try not to know too much about each other. Just enough to keep us safe.

‘He was so quick! Easiest money I’ve ever made,’ Amanda gloats. She’s a hot ticket at Three Loves Us. Tati and I tease Amanda by mimicking penises pushing on the side of our cheeks. We giggle, like a gaggle of schoolgirls. 

My client, John, booked and paid in advance. Mandy, the elderly Greek madam, tells me in a croaky voice he was already waiting. Climbing creaky stairs, I open a paint-chipped door to a dimly lit room. Angular and familiar it too is lacking in furniture. A chair on the left, the shower to the right and the four-poster bed enclosed with mirrors. When men pay, they demand to see everything, get all their money’s worth. John is already sitting on the bed, removing his shiny Omega watch. He looks at me and his eyes scroll from my ruby slipper heels – a nod to The Wizard of Oz – to my rich cream slip. He licks his lips.

‘You know, I’ve never been with a Black girl before,’ he says, removing his leather dress shoes. His voice is deep and echoes throughout the room. I hand him a towel, ushering him to enter the cubical.

‘Don't worry, I won't bite...’ I say, batting my thick glue-on lashes, as if I haven't used this same reply a thousand other times.

Beyonce’s music starts playing through the speakers. I hum to “If I Were a Boy” while getting the bed ready. We must provide toys and protection ourselves. In my monogram LV tote are condoms, cream, cheap red handcuffs, wet wipes, and spare undies in the event they get stolen, which has happened twice already. 

With a rattle of pipes, John turns off the shower. He quickly dries his thickly muscular frame before jumping onto the bed. He is getting the sense his sixty minutes are running out quickly. That’s the trick. Waste time in the shower, talking and disarming them as much as possible. His blue eyes lock in with mine. ‘Come here,’ he beckons with a hand, the shape and colour of a polar bear’s paw.

My hands are smooth and dark as obsidian on John’s pale and freckly body. Once, a local psychic told me I was the physical manifestation of the root chakra stone. That I can stay grounded in stressful situations. Had to be true, otherwise how could I still be in this industry? Rubbing his padded shoulders, I am reminded that the massage is my favourite part. It is when I am most in control. Massages are not penetrative and it’s a real chance to know each person more holistically, sizing up size and skin. 

John moves forward to kiss me. I catch the scent of light tobacco lingering on his still wet blond strands. I move back, creating space between us. Space is not what John has paid for. His pupils move from my mouth to my breasts until his gaze pours into mine. A black hole wanting to destroy everything. What good would the root chakra be then? John tries again. This time he uses his large and wide hands, covering my whole face. A fistful of push, directing my lips towards his dried thin pink ones. Sucking in my cheeks, I pull back, thrusting his grip forward and away from his face. Bile bubbled in my gut. 

‘Don’t you want to kiss me?’ he asks sharply.

‘I don't kiss in bookings.’ Calm. Still. Grounded.

‘What if I paid extra?’ His palms squish the side of my skull.

This is how it starts... Men try bargaining all the time. Extra money. Boundary pushing. Morality testing. Men, White ones in particular, always want more.

‘I don't kiss, sorry.’

I am not sorry but feel conditioned to be. I remember Tati had a regular, a classic ocker tradie, come in after a pub crawl night. We could hear him throw her around like a rag doll in their room upstairs. He only stopped after she cried, ‘Sorry, okay! I’ll do it!’ Amanda and I were just across the hall, we heard it all. When the regular left, he left a stink of Toohey’s and a bruise on Tati’s left cheek. ‘You should see my arse,’ she joked meekly, a small trickle of blood blending into her red wig. Sorry women made all the difference to savage men.

My stomach flips. I start to panic, my heart pumping in overdrive. My palms sweat and there is a lump in my throat. John’s fuzzy and thickly curled beard hovers over my face. No control. There is never control. Only White men are in control. With applied pressure, I am unable to move my face. His thin, dry lips come closer. Breath minty with chewed gum. John is sober, which is even scarier. I cannot stop what is coming. John’s sandy tongue brutally tugs at my pursed lips. Forcing me open. His saliva drips in my throat.

‘That wasn’t so bad, was it?’ he gloats, finally releasing me from his hold. “I’m satisfied. Get the shower ready.”

Leaving John’s cold embrace, I stumble to the shower. He’s right behind me, large and limber legs striding to stand in front of the shower. John’s broad chin stretches to the heavens. ‘Shower with me,’ he coos.

Reaching past me, John turns on the hot water faucet, and steps into the shower. All traces of the cream have fully soaked into his alabaster frame, making his skin smooth as a shiny pearl. We are facing each other. Mist rises heavy and seeps into my nostrils. John is a head taller than me, so I have to stand on my toes to look him in the eye. With the water gushing around and between us, the weight of what happened sinks in. Grounded. Always on our toes.

Polar bear palms at his lower pelvis. Soap foam becomes a lubricant as he touches himself. With arms by my side, I stay still. I keep eye contact. John’s heavy hands move faster and faster. Sperm hits my stomach. Water washes the thick liquid off me quickly. My shoulders drop. I breathe in the mist. Rooted.

Without a word, John gets out of the shower and combs his damp blond hair with his stocky fingers. He puts on a grey button-up shirt with brown pants and dress jacket. Pats at his beard.

Fully dressed, John leaves. But not before pecking my nose with his prickly upper lip. I cringe as he chuckles. The stairs creak as John goes back down to the CBD rush. From my room, I see Tati cleaning her own room. She must’ve finished her booking at the same time. She looks at me; her strawberry wig disheveled and matted. A towel around her fairy-like body and the glittering makeup she had on an hour back completely wiped off her face, revealing a light brown face with spots of acne. Least there was no bruise. We give each other a small but heavy smile. We get it.